Jesus experienced persecution by the religious leaders of his day. The very people who should have supported him rejected him instead. At their hands, he experienced spiritual trauma, and physical and emotional abuse. While naked on the cross, he also experienced sexual shame. He is a high priest who understands “church hurt.”

In her article, K.J. Ramsey illustrates this point beautifully, saying that “Jesus puts himself in the place of battered lambs. He was judged, critiqued and spit on by the shepherds of his day — all the way to the cross. They feared losing their precious power to his uncommon presence too.” She also reminds us that “God will judge between us. And Scripture makes it clear: God sides with those who have been shoved around.” 

When it comes to church hurt, we can also look to Paul who was both a leader in the early church and experienced deep hurt from his coworkers in the gospel. In this magazine’s cover article, Natalie Runion helps church leaders and churchgoers find encouragement from Paul’s journey. This encouragement was formative in her own journey navigating pain from her experiences as pastor’s kid for 20 years and from being in church ministry for 20 years, most recently as a pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. 

This magazine edition includes the perspectives of those who have experienced church hurt or spiritual abuse, of experts in trauma-informed care, and of pastors and denominational leaders who seek to lead faithfully. Some articles are directed toward church leaders who have the difficult job of leading with humility and upholding high standards without being perceived as overbearing. 

In a culture in which the public is increasingly cynical of religious institutions, our pastors and churches need to do better. We need to double down on efforts to be transparent, humble and accountable. We also need to become communities where people find safety and healing in the Good Shepherd.